Hotelier Harris Rosen Takes Education Personally

As president and COO of Rosen Hotels and Resorts in Orlando, Fla., for more than 40 years, Harris Rosen has firsthand knowledge of the ups and downs of the lodging industry. With his extensive personal experience, Rosen saw the need for better, more immersive education for his associates. As such, in 2004, Rosen used his clout and $10 million of his own money to help found the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida. Since opening the college, Rosen has seen other opportunities to expand educational opportunities for not just hospitality students and employees, but also neighborhoods in need, building a stronger community and leading to higher employee retention.

Rosen offers these three tips for hoteliers looking to support their local educational initiatives, and attract—and keep—top talent.

Put your money where your mouth is. Rosen Hotels and Resorts associates are privy to one of the most progressive employee benefits packages in the business, a package that includes college tuition. “If you work for me for three years, we pay tuition for your children to go to college,” Rosen explains. “If you work for me for five years, we pay tuition for you to go to college. It’s a nice benefit, and we do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

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Keep it contemporary. Rosen Hotels and Resorts properties utilize some of the top hospitality technology, and it is imperative that employees stay abreast of any updates. “We encourage our folks to go take online courses that keep them ahead of changing technology,” Rosen says. “Technology changes rapidly, and we need to change with it.”

Make it accessible to those who need it. Beyond educational opportunities for Rosen Hotels and Resorts staff, Rosen has extended educational opportunities to two needy communities in the Orlando area: Tangelo Park and, more recently, Parramore. Residents of these communities have access to free preschool for their children, as well as free vocational school or college tuition if they graduate high school. “In Tangelo Park, we’ve sent more than 300 children to college from a neighborhood that was only sending about 50 percent through high school. Our industry relies on people from neighborhoods like Tangelo Park and Parramore, so we want to build those communities up,” Rosen says. “And, I believe that one of the big reasons Rosen Hotels and Resorts has a very low turnover rate is because our associates appreciate and are invested in what we do for our surrounding communities.”

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